TAMAYA Shobei IX
TAMAYA Shobei IX is the only living Karakuri Ningyo Master in Japan today from an unbroken lineage. He creates and restores Dashi Karakuri mechanisms as an occupation in Nagoya and Inuyama, in the Aichi Prefecture. 70% of Japan's Dashi Karakuri can be found today in the Aichi Prefecture. (SUEMATSU 2001a)
In 1734 the first TAMAYA Shobei travelled to the feudal domain of Owari (Aichi Prefecture), today known as Nagoya. His ancestors learnt the art of clock making from TSUDA Tsukezaiemon. TSUDA in 1598 produced the first copy of a Western clock in Japan, which belonged to Shogun TOKUGAWA Ieyasu . This feat earned him the position of official clock maker for the Nagoya region. (SCHODT 1988, p 63)
Many Karakuri were destroyed during and after World War Two, therefore there is much restoration work to be done. TAMAYA Shobei IX works closely with Cultural Preservation Committees around the country restoring Dashi Karakuri and supporting traditional regional Karakuri festivals.
Dashi float mechanisms and Karakuri can be seen at the Inuyama Cultural Artefacts Museumin Inuyama. This is where TAMAYA Shobei IX has a workshop and annex where several Karakuri works are on display. It is at the base of the Inuyama Castle, where the Inuyama Matsuri (festival) takes place annually. The Museum address is 8 Aza Kitakoken, Oasza Inuyama, Aichi, Japan. The Dondenkan (Karakuri Hall) is also nearby, and houses four Dashi floats that appear at the Inuyama Matsuri (festival).
Information about TAMAYA Shobei's IX workshop in Nagoya can be found on the Nagoya Convention and Visitors Bureau's website.
Karakuri Today in Nagoya
The most famous Karakuri today can be found in the Aichi/Nagoya region. Here are details about some of the Karakuri around Nagoya. (SUEMATSU 2001b)
Hashibenkei at the Nagoya Noh Theatre
'Hashibenkei' - Nagoya Noh theater, near Nagoya Castle. Benkei and Ushiwakamaru are depicted in a fighting scene on Gojo bridge in Kyoto. Benkei brandishes a sword and Ushiwakamaru deftly dances on the handrail. The puppets were made by TAMAYA Shobei VIII. Benkei is manipulated by air pressure, Ushiwakamaru is motorised. Performance times 10:00, 13:00, 16:00
'Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, Ieyasu' - Wakamiya Odori Park, underneath Doro Yabacho Expressway. Resembles a 'Wadoeki' (traditional Japanese clock). Features the three great heros of the Nagoya region. The puppets were made by TAMAYA Shobei VIII. Performance times 12:00, 15:00, 18:00, 20:00
'ODA Nobunaga' - Ameyoko Shopping Arcade, Osu. This show depicts ODA Nobunaga throwing incense at the mortuary tablet at his father's funeral in Banshoji (Osu). He proceeds to dance the 'Kowakamai'. The puppet was made by TAMAYA Shobei VIII. Performance times 10:00, 12:00, 14:00, 16:00, 18:00
'TOKUGAWA Muneharu' - Osu Kannon, East side of grounds. TOKUGAWA (Owari) Muneharu, who loved festivals, rambles about riding on the back of a white bull. He asks spectators which they prefer, 'Karako' or 'Urashima'. The most popular answer determines the outcome of the performance. The puppet was made by MUDO Yuriko. Performance times 11:00, 13:00, 15:00, 17:00
'The Five Men of Shiranami' - South-west corner of Misonoza Bld. Misonodori, Fushimi. Japan's first talking puppets. Note that performances are cancelled on rainy and windy days. Performance times 10:00, 12:00, 13:00, 15:00, 17:00
'Songoku' - Permanent Exhihition Hall, Nagoya Science Musuem. Sogoku transforms himself into a child and turns a sommersault. The puppet was made by MUDO Yuriko, and employs more than 70 motors. Performance times 11:00, 15:00 (also at 13:30 on Saturdays and Sundays)
'Urashima Taro' - Permanent Exhihition Hall, Nagoya Science Musuem. A large shell opens, and Urashima Taro can be seen riding a sea turtle. The puppets were made by TAMAYA Shobei VIII. Performance times 11:00, 15:00 (also at 13:30 on Saturdays and Sundays)
SCHODT, F. L., 1988. Inside the Robot Kingdom - Japan, Mechatronics, and Coming Robotopia. Tokyo, New York: Kodansha.
SUEMATSU, Y., 2001a. TAMAYA Shobei IX [online]. Department of Electronic-Mechanical Engineering, Nagoya University. Available from: (in Japanese) [Accessed 23 November 2002]
SUEMATSU, Y., 2001b. Puppet Watching in Nagoya [online]. Department of Electronic-Mechanical Engineering, Nagoya University. Available from: http://www.suelab.nuem.nagoya-u.ac.jp/~suematsu/modern/modern.html (in Japanese) [Accessed 23 November 2002]
kirsty @ karakuri . info
Last modified 14 January 2008